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caption: Seattle Police Department officers form a line at the intersection of Broadway and East Pine Street after the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone was cleared early Wednesday morning, July 1, 2020, in Seattle. 
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Seattle Police Department officers form a line at the intersection of Broadway and East Pine Street after the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone was cleared early Wednesday morning, July 1, 2020, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle police force protesters out of CHOP zone, make arrests

Seattle police moved in early Wednesday morning to disperse protesters in the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP.

The action came after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency order to vacate Cal Anderson Park and the area around the East Precinct police building.

Officers moved into the area around 5 a.m. The police department indicated on its Twitter feed that about a dozen people had been arrested by 6 a.m. According to Seattle Police Department Detective Mark Jamieson, the people who were arrested were “people that wanted to be arrested. We gave multiple orders to disperse -- and then either people leave or they don’t.”

Officers with bikes worked their way back into the area and "did not meet very much resistance," according to journalist Omari Salisbury, speaking on his Converge Media stream.

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Witnesses in live video feeds from the area reported at least one instance of the use of pepper spray. Seattle police are under court order not to use tear gas on peaceful crowds.

Police announced that a safe exit from the area was at the south end of the CHOP as they moved through the protest zone.

Within a couple hours of police moving through the CHOP, city crews began taking down structures and tents in the area.

"I'm standing at 12th Avenue and East pine across the street from the east precinct of the Seattle Police Department," said KUOW Reporter Anna Boiko-Weyrauch at around 7 a.m. "There are a lot of barricades, still up from protesters with plywood and with concrete blocks and people with SDOT vests, fluorescent vests and helmets, are starting to clear them break them down. They're starting to remove tents, put stuff in bags. Police vehicles, police presence is everywhere here."

"Some residents, people with dogs are able to walk in and out, but only residents at his point," she said.

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Crews with the city of Seattle begin breaking down structures at the CHOP after police cleared the protest zone, July 1, 2020.
Credit: Megan Farmer / KUOW

“I’m so happy to see them just push them out, get outta here, go,” said Matthew Ploszaj as he watched the activity from his front yard and SDOT crews removed barricades and tents.

Ploszaj wore a shirt that stated “CHOP AKA CHAZ REFUGEE.” Neighbors in his building left after CHOP started, he said.

“It was not peaceful and it wasn’t a protest,” he said.

Ploszaj said his building has been been broken into four times since the protest area started.

“We called the police every time, never did they come.”

Emergency order

The move to clear the area comes more than three weeks after the police abandoned their East Precinct after violent confrontations with protesters after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His death sparked nationwide protests.

Mayor Durkan said the emergency order was necessary after deterioration of health and safety conditions surrounding encampments at the park. The order declared the gathering in that area as an “unlawful assembly” requiring immediate action from city agencies.

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A statement from Police Chief Carmen Best said the order comes after violence, including four shootings in the area resulting in two deaths and several injuries. Best said she supports peaceful protest and Black Lives Matter.

On Wednesday morning, Best said the other city agencies and organizations will come into the CHOP area later to clean up. She said that police will get back to the East Precinct and resume operations "as soon as we reasonably can."

Along with SPD, the Bellevue Police Department, and local FBI helped with Wednesday morning's clearing of the CHOP, according to Best. The city's Navigation Team has also been in the area to reach out to people experiencing homelessness.

Chief Best said that from here, they will work with community and city leaders "to encourage peace and move forward with how to re-envision public safety in our city."

People in the CHOP had vowed to stay in the area until serious efforts were made to defund the police department. Recently, Durkan has proposed a 5% cut to the Seattle Police Department as a means of mitigating financial losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.